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Episode #29

10 Women Who Impacted My Life & Career

Show Notes:

I don't know about you, but I've found myself surrounded by strong and powerful women in my life. So, in honor of Women's History Month, on today's episode of Business on the Bright Side, I'm highlighting 10 women who have impacted my life and career.

From family members, professors, and business colleagues to women I've never met and even one who's name I never got, listen in to see how knowing them has made my life and business all the better.


As a woman, every time you advance towards your dreams, you’re showing young girls watching what’s possible for their dreams.

10 Women Who Impacted My Life & Career


1. Dr. Maria deMoya (1:23)
She believed in what I was building.

2. Sara Blakely (2:45)
She inspired my to fulfill a need.

3. My Mom (3:54)
She taught me that experience is more important than lectures.

4. My Grandma Joan (5:28)
She taught me to silence stereotypes and live the life I want.

5. Kristine Sickles (7:39)
She saw the potential in my personal brand.

6. RBG (9:03)
She paved the way for women to have independence.

7. Natalie Franke of The Rising Tide Society (9:46)
She helped me to embrace community over competition.

8. Martha Bitar of Flodesk (10:50)
She mentored me through the process of building Bright Pages.

9. Myrna Daramy (12:12)
She taught me to embrace digital inclusivity in technology and helped me make my website accessible to all.

10. A Random Woman at Starbucks (13:21)
She paid it forward to my business when I was just starting out.

One Liner: As a woman, every time you advance towards your dreams, you’re showing young girls watching what’s possible for their dreams.

If you're a minority business owner looking for support in your business, please submit your pitches to [email protected]!

Try Bright Pages Free for one month with code POD at!

Review the Transcript:

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Business on the Bright Side. Today is a special episode for Women's History Month, where I'm going to tell you 10 women who have impacted my life and my career. And one of them, I don't even know her name. And I know sometimes, if you're like me, March can be a bit of a tough month. The weather's kind of gloomy. It's not quite spring. And I don't know, I can just get a little in my head in March. So we have created the Pump Up Pathway in Bright Pages. So this is guided online journaling specifically for what you need in the moment. And sometimes, especially in March, I need a little bit of a pump-up. So head to, sign up and use the code pod, P-O-D, for a free month.

What's up, everybody? It is Jess Ekstrum and welcome to Business on the Bright side, the podcast where you can learn how to make a living and make a difference at the same time. Life is short and so is my attention span, so let's get started. Okay. So let me share with you 10 women who have impacted my life and career to celebrate Women's History Month. So the first woman I want to tell you about is Dr. Maria de Moya. Now she was one of my professors when I was at NC State, and I started Headbands of Hope while I was still a student. And for my senior year, you have to do an internship.

And I've had already started my company and I really wanted to work on my business. And I didn't want to just go intern for whoever when I felt like I could be using everything that I had learned, getting my communications degree towards starting Headbands of Hope. And so when I asked the internship office, if I could intern for myself, they said, "Yes, but only if you get a supervisor." And Dr. Maria deMoya volunteered to be that supervisor so that I could spend that semester working on my business, which then became my full-time job post-graduation because of the work I was able to put in during that time being allowed to intern for myself. There's those people early on when you think about your ideas or the things that you want to create, that you don't realize it in the moment, but they gave you a green light. They didn't give you a yellow. They didn't give you a red. They gave you a green light. And Dr. Maria deMoya was that green light for me.

The second woman who has impacted me, and this is no surprise to any of you is Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. So anyone who knows me knows that she is my queen. I have written her tons of letters. One time she wrote me back and it was super sweet. And she sent me a gift card to Spanx, which I used immediately. But one of the reasons why I love Sarah Blakely so much is that she taught me and so many other women that entrepreneurship, and founders, and inventors are not this one size fits all look or personality type. I don't have to be this buttoned up man to be a bad-ass entrepreneur and show up and ask for what I want. You can be funny and you can be smart. You can be quirky and also be innovative. And that's what I truly love about Sara Blakely, is that her starting Spanx was not this grand plan to take over the world. It was to solve a problem that she did with a product. And she's just keeping it real and normal throughout the way.

The third woman is my mom. So my mom... Oh my gosh. The team at Headbands of Hope had to decided that they were going to create her, my mom, her own discount code for the website, because that's how much she ordered headbands all the dang time. They would see her name come up on Shopify and they'd be like, "Stop buying headbands. Your daughter owns this business. Just tell her which headbands you want." But needless to say, she's always been my number one cheerleader and my number one customer. But her inspiring me started long before I ever started my business. When she was in college, she biked from New York to California. Yes, you you heard that correctly. Bike, like a road bike from New York to California, because it sounded like fun.

And if there is one thing or scenario I could sum up my mom with. It is that. Like, "Well, it sounded like fun." She has always lived a life as if she never knew when her last day was going to be. And she encouraged not just encouraged us, but led us to do the same. She would sign my sister and I up for every summer camp imaginable. I mean, it was always experience over lectures. And that's one of the reasons why my mom has been such a big impact on me today is because I always just thought like, "Well, what's the worst thing that could happen? Why don't I just try it because it sounds like fun?" So thank you, Mom.

And then the other woman that has impacted my life and my career is her mom, who is my grandma, Joan. So my grandma, she had three kids, I think before she was like 25. And she would always tell me that she felt like she was born in the wrong era, that she wanted to be this business woman. But she was always told that she needed, not by her husband, but by society, that she needed to stay at home, take care of the kids, and cook, clean. And she lived in Long Island. And one day she decided to take the train into Manhattan, and she didn't tell anyone, and apply for this job. It was an entry-level position for this magazine company. I don't know exactly what it was. It might've been secretary. It might've been mail room, whatever it might've been. And she goes in and she applies for the job, and she does an interview, and they called her and they say that she didn't get it. And she said, "Okay, I understand. But if it doesn't work out with whoever you hire, call me." And she would call them back to check in and see how it was going.

And then one day they called her and said, "It didn't work out. Are you free Monday?" And she said, "Yes." And kudos to my grandpa for just cheering her on. And so she commuted into the city every day and worked her way up at this magazine to eventually be the vice president of distribution for the entire magazine. And then to really come full circle when Chasing the Bright Side came out, Publishers Weekly did a star review on Chasing the Bright Side. And the editor in chief of Publishers Weekly was the person who originally hired my grandma. So it was just such a crazy full circle moment. But my grandma really taught me to just silence the stereotypes and just live the life that I want. Stand up for what I believe in. And if they won't give it to me, then just keep showing up until they do. And so thank you, Grandma.

The fifth woman who has impacted my life and my career is Christine Sickles. So Christine is actually my CMO now for my personal brand. And she actually booked me to speak when she was working for a super big company back in the day. And she eventually told me that the people, the committee had selected this Navy Seal to come speak. And she was like, "No, we need someone who can speak to women, who has created something." And she was the one who went and found me and brought me to speak. And I'm so glad that she did that, because from that moment on, she really saw the potential in my personal brand.

And I think at that moment in time, I was just kind of in this box as the headband girl. I started Headbands of Hope, and that was great, and that was my story. But I wanted to eventually be someone that people could trust to start their own businesses, to show them what's possible, to give them information, to equip them, to get speaking gigs, to get book deals. And she saw that in me. And so she has been really a guiding light in starting this new part of my brand, even starting this podcast. And although I'm grateful for being the headband girl with Headbands of Hope, that's not all that I am. And she's not only saw that, but helped me create that.

The sixth woman is, no surprise, notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What I do today would be unimaginable if it wasn't for her. For me to start a company, for me to have my husband work for my company, for me to get business loans from the bank, all of these things that she helped lay the bricks for. And now I just hope that women, as a generation, that we can just pick up the baton that she ran so far with and just keep running the good race for women. So thank you, RBG.

The seventh woman is actually going to be our guest in next week's episode and that is Natalie Frank. Now, Natalie is the co-founder of Rising Tide Society. And she is someone who I connected with a while back that really helped me hone something that I was bad at, which is community over competition. That's not really her her platform, you can just feel it in the way that she supports other women, in the way that she cheers me, in the way that she views success is all of our success. I can't wait for you guys to hear from Natalie next week because she's someone who really changed the way that I approached my business and the way that I view other women. And just fostering that community instead of seeing people as a threat, or "I have to beat her." There's enough for all of us. And Natalie really taught me that.

And another person who I actually met through Natalie is number eight, is Martha Bitar. And she is the co-founder of Flodesk, which I absolutely love Flodesk. It is a beautiful email marketing platform. And if you're interested in trying it out, you can head to I promise this is not an ad. I just truly love Flodesk. But Martha really helped me. When I started to build Bright Pages, I had never built a tech company before. And she took me under her wing and really guided me through that process. And when something wasn't working, It was my reaction to be like, "Oh my gosh, this is done. This has failed." Throwing the towel if something didn't work. And she was like, "No, pick up the phone, call your customers, and ask them what they need." And that's what we did. We called Bright Pages users and asked them what they needed, what we could change about the platform, what they needed journaling for, what they hoped. And that was a big shift in the company, is because she gave me the wherewithal to not just look at my business from afar, but be in it and actually keep talking to my customers.

And the ninth person is my friend Myrna Dermie. And I actually got connected with her because I was a part of the Pass the Mic Challenge on Instagram, where I hand my platform over to a Black woman. And she got to use my platform for the day. And that was Myrna. And I am so freaking glad that I got paired with her because she has been someone that has taught me... Her whole thing is digital optimization for your brand, digital inclusivity. Actually, if you go on my website,, you'll see on the left-hand side is this widget that she actually created that makes my website inclusive to whatever anyone needs. If you are prone to having seizures, or if you need the font bigger, or whatever it might be, you can actually use that widget. And that is because of Myrna really pioneering the way for digital inclusivity in websites and courses. And she taught me just not to be afraid of technology, but to use it.

And lastly, number 10 is someone who I don't know her name. And I know that that sounds crazy, but this was a woman that I had just gotten started with Headbands of Hope. And we were just on a local news station. And I thought I had totally made it because Channel 11 story about me. And I was in a Starbucks and I had had a Headbands of Hope bumper sticker on my laptop. And she had walked by and said, "Oh, were you that girl on the news station last night with Headbands of Hope?" And I said, "Yes, that was me." And I can't remember what else I said. She went and got her coffee. And then as she was leaving, she dropped an envelope on my computer and said, "You do so much for others. I want to do something for you."

And then she left. And inside that envelope was a thousand dollars cash. And this was at a point in my business where I was still like, "We can only use one sheet of tissue paper because that's all I budgeted per package." And it was very, very early on where I wasn't sure if it was working. And I wasn't sure if I was going to have to get a job on the side and that thousand dollars, not only did it help me stay afloat financially, it validated what I was doing, because it's amazing, the ripple effect you can have just inside you when one person believes in your idea. And not just tells you that they believe in your idea, but shows you that they believe in your idea. And that's why I'm officially using my personal money to invest in minority women-owned businesses that I believe in. So if you're interested or if you know a business that is looking for partnership or investment, you can send any pitches to [email protected], and I would love to review them.

I'll leave you with this. As a woman, every time you advance towards your dreams, you're showing young girls watching what's possible for their dreams. And next week on Business on the Bright Side, we have my dear friend, who was number seven on this list, Natalie Frank, The co-founder of Rising Tide Society and pioneer of community over competition. So tune in Monday, and I'll see you then. Thanks for listening to Business on the Bright Side with Jess Ekstrom. I love to send out the episodes every Monday with a quick text and a quote for me. So text me the word podcast to (704) 228-9495. That's (704) 228-9495. If you want to see what the show notes are from this episode, head to, hit subscribe here, write a review, and I'll see you on Monday.

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